Miley sat in the lobby of the school, fidgeting with her fingers and playing with her hair as she looked around. It felt unreasonably huge, and every door looked so far away.
She looked for every exit, sized up everyone that walked by, and watched for any people out of place.
"Are you my new student?" a voice from behind asked as a hand dropped onto her shoulder.
Miley jumped and yelped, whipping around to see who was behind her.
A surprised, brown haired woman stood with her hands up.
"Whoa, I didn't mean to scare you," she apologized.
"Oh. It's fine. I'm just so nervous," Miley responded, looking at her lap.
"It's fine. A lot of kids are. You're Miley Anderson, right?" the woman asked.
"Ah, so you are my new student. I'm Mrs. Hine, your seventh grade homeroom teacher," the woman said.
"It's nice to meet you," Miley said, looking up at her.
"I look forward to having you in my class. Here, let me lead you long there," Mrs. Hine offered, beckoning her with her finger.
Miley obeyed, hopping off her seat and picking up her backpack.
"So, where'd you move from?" Mrs. Hine asked.
"My family lived in New York City," Miley answered, playing with her hair.
"Ah, where in New York?"
"Why did you move?"
"My parents work for Ultainum, and they got-"
Miley's ears began ringing as the background noise around her began to sound muffled. She felt her chest tighten as she gasped for breath. She swore she heard a muffled scream.
A brief flash of a muscular man was displayed in her mind.
She couldn't breathe. It felt like she was in space.
A flash of someone on the ground with a trickle of blood leaking filled her mind this time, and then the glint of a blade.
"Miley, are you okay?" a voice brought her back into reality, and she saw Mrs. Hine standing in front of her, with a concerned look on her face.
"Huh?" Miley said, looking back at her.
"A balloon popped in the room across the hall, and you just froze up. Is everything okay?" Mrs. Hine asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just startled," Miley answered, looking down.
Mrs. Hine nodded and looked at Miley as she kept walking. Her eyes darted around the hallway, and she walked on the other side of the hallway, lagging behind by a little. She seemed a lot more antsy as well.
Mrs. Hine looked into the girl's eyes and saw no warmth or innocence.
She saw distrust and fear.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm fine," Miley answered.
Mrs. Hine nodded and slowed down.
"You know it's awfully hot to be wearing a hoodie. Wanna take it-"
"No!" Miley interrupted loudly, recoiling back slightly.
Mrs. Hine looked at her, taken aback. Miley saw this and sighed.
"I'm sorry. I'm just not hot in this," she lied.
"I understand," Mrs. Hine answered, patting her shoulder, "Here's our classroom."
Mrs. Hine gestured to the door of the room, opening it for her.
Miley put her backpack in an empty locker, and walked inside.
Jake was focused on his book when he heard his teacher clear her throat, earning the attention of everyone in the class as they quieted down and turned to her.
"Now class, as you all know, we have a new student joining us today. She moved all the way from New York. This is Miley Anderson," Mrs. Hine announced, placing a hand on Miley's shoulder.
"Hi," Miley said quietly, shifting from foot to foot.
"Hi Miley," the class responded in unison.
"Jake, she'll be sitting next to you; be nice," Mrs. Hine explained.
Jake nodded as Miley sat down in the seat next to him, waving to her.
She waved back silently and stared ahead.
Jake looked her over and saw that she was wearing a hoodie, concealing her scared arms he saw from a few days ago. But he did see one visible scar on her thigh.
"Interesting," Jake thought.
An intense feeling came over Miley's body. She felt like someone was staring at her, burning holes in her with their eyes. Specifically, burning holes into her exposed thigh.
"I gotta cover that better," she scolded herself.
Turning her eyes, she saw Jake staring at her scar.
"What is it with him?" she thought.
She opened her eyes and carried on listening to her teacher, pulling the right leg of her shorts to cover the scar.
"So you all know how to paint, right?" Jake's art teacher asked the class.
The kids nodded.
"Okay, paint whatever comes to mind. Nothing is wrong, got it?"
"Yes," the class answered.
"Okay. Go crazy," the art teacher said, sitting and sipping his coffee.
Jake got to work, experimenting with different colors. He already had what he wanted to draw in mind.
After a couple minutes of painting, he was done. He exclaimed the finished product, grinning from ear to ear.
It was a palm tree, and he was proud of it.
"Nice painting," a voice said from behind. Jake's smile faded.
It was a kid named Ethan, who bullied Jake constantly with his friends. He was a chubby kid with freckles and blond hair, and was the biggest kid in Jake's class. Jake, however, was on the opposite side of the size spectrum, making him the smallest.
"What do you want, Ethan?" Jake asked.
"I just wanna see the painting," Ethan said, grinning evilly.
"Well, you've been standing there for a while, you've seen it. Let me paint," Jake answered, looking down.
Ethan started to walk off, before snatching the painting away from Jake.
"Hey, give it back!" Jake yelled, trying to get his art back.
"I just wanna see it!" Ethan played dumb, holding it up out of Jake's reach.
"Ethan," Jake groaned.
"Okay, fine," Ethan gave in. He started handing the paper to Jake, but retracted his hand and tore it in half. He dropped the paper and the two watched the pieces float down to the ground.
"Oops," he said, snickering on the way back to his seat.
Jake bent down and looked at the two pieces of his torn art. He sighed dejectedly, crumbled them up and threw them away.
"Alright, class, time to clean up!" their teacher announced, clapping his hands.
The class obeyed, and started cleaning.
Jake got in line to dump out the water he used to wet his brushes. In the front of the line, he saw Miley, who was stacking the cups.
As he got to the front, he waved to her. Miley waved back shyly, and reached to accept his cup.
Jake grabbed it and extended his arm, not seeing Ethan behind him.
Ethan shoved him, and Jake dropped the cup. He frantically tried reaching for it as it fell, but it was too late. The water in it splashed onto the front of Miley's hoodie, and the cup hit the top of one of Miley's exposed feet.
"Ow!" Miley exclaimed in pain, clutching her foot and wincing.
Jake tried to say he was sorry, but Ethan spoke first.
"Way to go, Jake. You hurt the newbie," he taunted.
Jake looked around, and saw everyone staring holes into him. All of them looked in surprise.
He sighed, and went back to his seat, putting his head down.
As her class cleared out of the classroom. Miley limped over the trash can. She looked around for any stragglers before starting to dig.
After about a minute of digging, she found the two pieces of paper she was looking for.
She put them together, and they fit perfectly.
The two halves of a palm tree.
She walked over to the counter with them and looked for some tape. Finding some, she broke off a couple pieces and began fusing the paper back together.
After she was done, she looked at her work and smiled.
"He'll love it," she thought, rolling it up and walking out of the room.
After he put his backpack away at home, Jake got on his bike and rode around his neighborhood as slowly as he could. He had no idea where he was riding to, nor any focus on a destination.
After riding for a bit, he found himself at the park.
He parked and locked his bike, and began walking on the path along the stream, alone with his thoughts. He was surrounded by tall trees, hearing birds chirp and the leaves swish in the gentle wind. He heard the trickle of the stream as it flowed, hopping over the smooth rocks and curving into the tree filled nook in front of him.
A perfect place to escape reality and himself. A spot where no one could find him.
Why did he have to get harassed all the time? Couldn't he just have one good day? Why couldn't he just be someone else?
Something else for that matter.
His lonely thoughts stopped as he heard noises further up the path. It sounded like music.
"Huh? Is that a guitar?" he thought, walking faster.
As he walked, he saw a small wooden bridge with stone ends built into each small hill on each end. It looked about ten feet above the stream, and overlooked a large flat area surrounded by the tallest trees Jake had seen in the park. The trees seemed to act like a wall, shielding the area from the outside.
"It looks really pretty; why haven't I been out here?" Jake thought, before noticing the strumming getting louder.
The strums were accompanied by soft humming that sounded like a girl's voice. He approached the flat area and climbed onto a rock toward the sound, sneaking up as carefully and quietly as he could. When he got to where the sound was loudest, he found where and who the source of it was.